Greenfield Lake, North Carolina, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - North Carolina - Coast -

Only those lucky enough to spend time in Wilmington, North Carolina will see Greenfield Lake. That’s because the small man-made reservoir is located within this Coast Region city and an integral part of Wilmington’s charms. Created in 1730 when Dr. Sam Green dammed the outflow from a natural spring-fed wetland to power a mill, the beautiful little lake has matured into the city’s most striking water feature.

Located about a mile from the Cape Fear River, Greenfield Lake covers about 100 acres in a long, narrow meander that includes several fingers and bays. Its nearly 200-year history has been punctuated with various attractions and activities as Wilmington grew around it. The lake once hosted an amusement park, a petting zoo, bathing beach and several other features that caused a trolley line to be built to reach it. Today, most of the old attractions are gone, including the trolley line, but the lake provides plenty of recreational opportunities and a unique ecology for wildlife viewing.

Boat rentals have been a favorite pastime on Greenfield Lake for over 100 years. Today’s rentals consist of canoes, kayaks and paddleboats. These craft are perfect for the narrow, shallow lake and offer the best way to enjoy the many animals and birds that live here. Spanish moss-draped cypress command the lakeshore and venture into the water. Cypress knees and low shrubs dot the lake’s surface in the shallowest portions, offering excellent shelter for fish and water-loving birds. Although the lake may be seven feet deep at its deepest points, shallow areas are often only a foot or so below the surface. Picnics and strolling along the lakeshore are popular; a walking/biking path 4.5 miles long was created around the lake that allows visitors a picture of the various environments framed by trees and tall grasses.

One public boat launch is located on the south shore, but is suitable only for small boats. A 2.5-horsepower limit encourages electric trolling motors, but many simply fish from paddleboats or kayaks. Fishing is rewarding for a small lake located in a major city. Pumpkinseed, yellow perch, crappie, bluegill, channel catfish and largemouth bass and bullhead join the primitive gar and bowfin lurking among the cypress knees. Some of the bass and crappie attain good size. Several fishing piers offer shore fishing, particularly popular among children.

Greenfield Lake was the local ‘swimming hole’ as late as the 1950s. However, increasing numbers of alligators in the water make swimming unsafe. Those who don’t come for fishing or the lakeside views can enjoy a concert, performance or festival at the recently refurbished Greenfield Lake Amphitheater. Originally constructed in 1962, the amphitheater is located near the south end of the lake. The City of Wilmington purchased the lake and surroundings in 1925. City-owned Greenfield Park covers 250 acres holding tennis courts, a skate park, picnic tables and grills, concession stand, a ‘fragrance garden’ and many hiking and nature trails. During the Depression, WPA workers cleared underbrush, landscaped the area and constructed the roadway around the lake. Flower landscapes planted during the construction induced local citizens to donate azalea bushes to improve the roadside. Eventually, the lovely flowering shrubs became the focus of the annual Azalea Festival, first organized in the 1940s. The annual event draws thousands each year to the colorful festival.

Greenfield Lake is a favorite of bird watchers who view a variety of birds and waterfowl near the shore and nesting among the cypress trees. Depending on the season, birders can enjoy watching yellow-throated and prothonotary warblers, great-crested flycatchers, summer tanagers, green heron, great blue heron, little blue heron, great egret, anhinga, barred owl, wood duck and a number of more common birds. A part of the Wilmington Parks and Recreation Department, access to Greenfield Lake is free, although boat rental and pavilion reservations carry a fee. Cape Fear River Watch handles boat rentals and has worked to alleviate surface run-off of fertilizers that had recently impacted water quality. The use of environmentally-safe herbicides and solar-powered aerators have led to a cleaner lake and restoration of its unique ecology. Although there are no houses directly on the shoreline, several housing developments are located nearby.

The Wilmington area of the North Carolina coast is a popular vacation destination. The old city holds one of the country’s largest historic districts, and walking tours to enjoy the architecture are popular, as is strolling the Riverwalk along the Cape Fear River. The scenic boardwalk is well supplied with small cafes, shops, elegant restaurants featuring seafood, and an excellent farmers market in the summer months. River cruises are available, from scenic routes to dinner cruises. The WWII battleship U.S.S. North Carolina, moored across the river, can be reached by water taxi and serves as a museum and memorial to the many sailors who served in the Pacific during that war. Wilmington holds several venues for arts and culture, including the historic Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts and the Cameron Art Museum. Families with children will enjoy the Children’s Museum of Wilmington with its hands-on experiments and play opportunities. One rather unique museum in Wilmington is the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science. Originally formed to preserve Confederate artifacts after the Civil War, the museum has expanded to include exhibits of Native American artifacts, early pioneer life, agriculture and new discoveries in science.

Wilmington offers a full complement of lodgings, from large hotels to small guest houses, inns, motels and bed & breakfasts. Because the Atlantic Coast hugs the east edge of the city, holiday lodgings abound near popular shore areas including Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach and Kure Beach. All of the sun, fun and surf an ocean-side holiday offers can be found at Wilmington only a couple of miles from Greenfield Lake. Here the visitor can arrange chartered deep sea fishing, ecology hikes, kite-boarding lessons, island-hopping, or watch the 400+ participant Carolina’s Cup paddleboard race. If Wilmington sounds like your ideal lifestyle, real estate is available in several areas in all price ranges. So, pack up the fishing gear, the binoculars and the birding guide and head for Wilmington for your next vacation.

* Statistics of the lake’s size and depth are estimates from unofficial sources. Size estimates vary from 90 acres to 150 acres. No official documentation is found at present.

Things to do at Greenfield Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Tennis
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Amusement Park

Fish species found at Greenfield Lake

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Bluegill
  • Bowfin
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Gar
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Sunfish
  • Yellow Perch

Greenfield Lake Photo Gallery

Greenfield Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: City of Wilmington

Surface Area: 100 acres

Shoreline Length: 4 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 6 feet

Average Depth: 4 feet

Maximum Depth: 7 feet

Completion Year: 1730

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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